Figure skater Darlene Jakubowski is on top of the world after her repeat visit to the podium at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, earlier this month.
Jakubowski took silver and gold at the World Games, replicating her performance at the 2009 event in Boise, Idaho, where she won the same colour medals. But unlike Boise, Jakubowski was skating at the peak level, outdoing the rest of the world.
The 20-year-old Fort St. John resident, who trains with Mile Zero Figure Skating Club coach Jenn Harcourt, finished in first place in the Level 6 – Technical Solo Category, and second in the dance section. Level 6 is the highest stage of competition for any skater.
Jakubowski won both Technical Solo events handily and almost completed a double salchow, a new trick she had been working on prior to the event.
"I almost had my double, but landed my axel clean and my combination – four revolutions," explained Jakubowski, who says that competing in Boise four years ago helped calm her nerves this time around on the other side of the world.
"I wasn't nervous this time. It was easier," she beamed before practice on Monday at Memorial Arena.
In fact, Jakubowski was so confident, she narrowly missed a double-gold finish after her Level 4 – Ice Dance section was decided by a tiebreaker. After two events, Jakubowski and fellow Canadian Kennedy Zaytsoff finished in draw. In the event of a tie, the highest score in the second set of marks is used to determine first place, which favoured Zaytsoff.
Missing out on a second gold didn't dampen Jakubowski's spirit one bit as she points out that the Games are more about camaraderie than competition. As an avid pin aficionado, Jakubowski made some global friends trading brooches for jewelry and other accessories.
Another highlight for Jakubowski came when she accepted the silver medal from famed figure skater Michelle Kwan – a personal hero of Jakubowski's.
"It was different; I've never met her before," she said. "I was always a fan, watching her on TV."
Competing halfway across the world did however come with its own set of challenges for Jakubowski, especially when it came to eating her pre-skate meals.
"It was different. It was great seeing all the culture and trying to use chopsticks," she said, while also noting the difficult skating conditions that her and the rest of the competition faced.
"The ice was soft, too, unlike here where it is hard. It makes it hard to push."
When asked if there is anything left to accomplish now that she is a two-time gold medalist, Jakubowski says she is only going to continue skating and maybe return to the Winter Games in four years time at the next level in the dance section.
She notes that there are still moves that her and Harcourt are adding to her repertoire. At the top of her game, already, there is apparently more room to go higher.
"Jenn's a good coach. We do it over and over until I get it, but once I get it I know how to do it myself and I just have to continue to make it better each time."